Suffolk County has deployed 70 new license plate readers throughout the police department's Third Precinct in Bay Shore in a move officials say has already helped police solve several crimes, County Executive Steve Bellone and Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison announced Tuesday at a news conference. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Suffolk County has deployed 70 new license plate readers throughout the Third Precinct, a move authorities say has already helped police solve several crimes, County Executive Steve Bellone and Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said Tuesday at a news conference in Bay Shore.

The license plate readers are placed strategically throughout the Third Precinct, which includes Bay Shore, Brentwood, Central Islip, Islip, East Islip, West Islip and Islip Terrace. The devices provide a cyber ring of security around the precinct, the officials said. 

“License plate readers significantly enhance our department’s ability to investigate and respond to criminal incidents in Suffolk County,” Bellone said at Third Precinct headquarters. “Police departments across the nation are using license plate readers to catch plate information and check it against a list that can include wanted suspects, missing persons and stolen vehicles.”

License plate readers, placed on poles, message trailers and other locations, can read and cross-reference thousands of license plates per minute with New York State Department of Motor Vehicle records and law-enforcement databases. Data gleaned from the license plate readers, Bellone said, will be used by Suffolk police to monitor trends in crime.

In recent months, license plate readers have helped police solve a hit-and-run in Brentwood and led to an arrest in an illegal dumping case.

Harrison said the license plate readers recently helped thwart a suspect posing as a cop who attempted to kidnap two teenage girls. “Being able to identify a vehicle in a timely manner … is extremely valuable,” Harrison said. 

The license plate readers were purchased through a $1 million grant obtained by Assistant Speaker of the State Assembly Phil Ramos, whose district includes Central Islip and Brentwood. Ramos hailed the decision to install a “cyber crime-fighting net” around a community that has been rocked by gang violence and homicides in recent years. 

“This came about because our community clamored for some kind of change, something to do about gangs,” said Ramos, a retired 20-year Suffolk police officer.  

Ramos said the devices do not violate residents’ privacy because they collect information available to the human eye in public view. He said officers will need to follow specific protocols before they gain access to the data. 

But Irma Solis, the Suffolk regional director for the New York Civil Liberties Union said license plate readers could be used to monitor where people work and worship, who they meet and whether they participate in protests. She called on the county to put protocols on how police use the data in writing and make them public. 

Shootings are down in Suffolk, the department said. There were 47 shootings in the county through Aug. 2, 2021, compared with 38 for the same time period this year. 

The recent installation nearly doubles the number of license plate readers in Suffolk, the officials said. There are 85 other license plate readers distributed throughout the county. The officials said they plan on deploying additional license plate readers in other Suffolk communities.

The Nassau County Police Department obtained a $1 million state grant to purchase dozens of license plate readers in 2020, officials said at the time. Police had already deployed more than 40 license plate readers throughout the county prior to receiving the grant. 

“We have spoken to the Suffolk County Police Department and have provided assistance as we have utilized the program for years as it has been highly successful as an asset to lowering crime and shootings over the long term,” Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryer said Tuesday.

License plate readers are also in use by the Long Beach, Freeport and Hemptsead police departments.

Suffolk County has deployed 70 new license plate readers throughout the Third Precinct, a move authorities say has already helped police solve several crimes, County Executive Steve Bellone and Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said Tuesday at a news conference in Bay Shore.

The license plate readers are placed strategically throughout the Third Precinct, which includes Bay Shore, Brentwood, Central Islip, Islip, East Islip, West Islip and Islip Terrace. The devices provide a cyber ring of security around the precinct, the officials said. 

“License plate readers significantly enhance our department’s ability to investigate and respond to criminal incidents in Suffolk County,” Bellone said at Third Precinct headquarters. “Police departments across the nation are using license plate readers to catch plate information and check it against a list that can include wanted suspects, missing persons and stolen vehicles.”

License plate readers, placed on poles, message trailers and other locations, can read and cross-reference thousands of license plates per minute with New York State Department of Motor Vehicle records and law-enforcement databases. Data gleaned from the license plate readers, Bellone said, will be used by Suffolk police to monitor trends in crime.

In recent months, license plate readers have helped police solve a hit-and-run in Brentwood and led to an arrest in an illegal dumping case.

Harrison said the license plate readers recently helped thwart a suspect posing as a cop who attempted to kidnap two teenage girls. “Being able to identify a vehicle in a timely manner … is extremely valuable,” Harrison said. 

The license plate readers were purchased through a $1 million grant obtained by Assistant Speaker of the State Assembly Phil Ramos, whose district includes Central Islip and Brentwood. Ramos hailed the decision to install a “cyber crime-fighting net” around a community that has been rocked by gang violence and homicides in recent years. 

“This came about because our community clamored for some kind of change, something to do about gangs,” said Ramos, a retired 20-year Suffolk police officer.  

Ramos said the devices do not violate residents’ privacy because they collect information available to the human eye in public view. He said officers will need to follow specific protocols before they gain access to the data. 

But Irma Solis, the Suffolk regional director for the New York Civil Liberties Union said license plate readers could be used to monitor where people work and worship, who they meet and whether they participate in protests. She called on the county to put protocols on how police use the data in writing and make them public. 

Shootings are down in Suffolk, the department said. There were 47 shootings in the county through Aug. 2, 2021, compared with 38 for the same time period this year. 

The recent installation nearly doubles the number of license plate readers in Suffolk, the officials said. There are 85 other license plate readers distributed throughout the county. The officials said they plan on deploying additional license plate readers in other Suffolk communities.

The Nassau County Police Department obtained a $1 million state grant to purchase dozens of license plate readers in 2020, officials said at the time. Police had already deployed more than 40 license plate readers throughout the county prior to receiving the grant. 

“We have spoken to the Suffolk County Police Department and have provided assistance as we have utilized the program for years as it has been highly successful as an asset to lowering crime and shootings over the long term,” Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryer said Tuesday.

License plate readers are also in use by the Long Beach, Freeport and Hemptsead police departments.

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